Before you even realize you’re pregnant, your baby’s nervous system — which includes the brain and spinal cord — is beginning to develop. That’s why it’s ideal to begin taking prenatal vitamins before you conceive and opt for healthier food choices, too.
Once you know you’re eating for two, Dr. Corey, health expert spokesperson for Better Health Store and a board certified Naturopathic Doctor at Thrive On Life in Brighton, says there are two important things to include in your diet: minerals and fat.
“You need tons of fat and tons of cholesterol for baby’s brain,” she says. “It’s so important.”
The same goes for after baby’s arrival. Here, Dr. Corey offers tips on what to eat during pregnancy to help boost baby’s brain development, plus advice on what to feed baby once he or she is ready for those first foods.
Brain boosters in pregnancy
Dr. Corey is a big proponent of the Weston A. Price diet, which includes eating whole foods, full-fat milk products, beef, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, cod liver oil and more.
These foods keep mom healthy during pregnancy, but also aid in baby’s brain development — and continue to help baby grow after birth if mom is nursing.
Eat fresh, eat raw and eat for the season, Dr. Corey suggests. Avocados, eggs, nuts, broccoli, berries, kale and cheese are just some mineral-rich foods to add to your diet during pregnancy.
Expectant moms aren’t always going to be perfect when it comes to food choices. After all, pregnancy cravings are definitely a thing — and if you’re having one there’s nothing wrong with eating some organic dark chocolate, or making yourself a smoothie, she says. Smoothies are a great way to train yourself into thinking you’re are having a milkshake. Dr. Corey suggests including almond butter or peanut butter, organic cacao, almond or grass-fed whole milk, frozen bananas and stevia to concoct a delicious smoothie. Throw in MCT oil to boost baby brain development, too.
“We know that MCT oil helps us make ketones in the body, which cross the blood-brain barrier. They get more tissue oxygen to the brain so I think that would be a great thing in those smoothies,” she says.
Baby’s first foods
Continue to focus on fat and whole foods when baby is ready for his or her first food.
“Think about our bodies. Our tissues are comprised of fat. Our gut is comprised of fat. Our heart is comprised of fat, and as we’re laying down new tissues, as things are growing, they create the building blocks for that,” she says. “They are anti-inflammatory. The gut is the second brain so as we’re laying down that foundation, as we’re building that gut, that helps with the neuro processes of the brain — and if we have low-fat, no-fat, we get nothing with brain development, so we absolutely need fat in all aspects.”
That’s why Dr. Corey suggests parents ditch the rice cereal for their baby’s first food and opt for egg yolks instead.
“Honestly, babies don’t have the enzymes to break down carbohydrates when they are first born so really one of the best first foods is pastured egg yolk,” she says. “They have all the enzymes to break that down.”
Soft boil the egg for 5 to 6 minutes. Take the white off, add some sea salt to the yolk and serve it to baby.
“That’s got tons of cholesterol,” she says. “Babies need high cholesterol. They need a lot of that for brain development, so that is super, super important.”
Further following the Weston A. Price diet, Dr. Corey suggests feeding baby a traditional food like liver. Get pastured, grass-fed liver or chicken liver and make a pâté. Use a little bit of butter and sauté onions and blend it up for baby. Liver has a lot of choline, which produces acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate memory, mood and intelligence, according to Healthline.
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, are a great way to help with baby’s gut development. “Most of our neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, so if our gut is devoid then we don’t have proper brain development,” she says.
Make bone broth, she suggests. Cook your chicken in the Instant Pot, for example and put the stock in the refrigerator and when “it gets gelatinous, that is sacred food for baby. That is brain food for baby,” she says.
Other options for baby’s first foods include mashed avocados or mashed bananas. Dr. Corey isn’t a big advocate for vegetarian diets for baby because “baby absolutely needs good amounts of proteins.”
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